Monday, April 23, 2012

Run Like You Want To

Running across campus at night was good way to avoid lots of things.  Even though I was really far north, just a couple of counties from the Red River, it still gets hot during the day so running away from the Sun was good.

It was also an excuse to put off my coursework for another hour or two.  Probably more like the next day or week, but I always got it done.

I also avoided traffic in two ways.  Running on campus meant crossing very few streets, staying mostly on sidewalks, and no cars.  Because it is night time you also avoid people traffic.  During the day there were thousands and thousands of students on campus, but at night it trickles down to just a scattering.

One night I passed this guy who was a bit overweight was and clearly limping along the sidewalk. It looked like he had just finished a night class.  I don't know why he was limping, but it looked like it was due to an injury.  Maybe a bad ankle or foot.  Just a brief picture that has stuck in my head for long time.

Running wasn't something that I would always be able to do. It was temporary.  Run like you want to because you can.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shirtless on Gattis School Road

If you ever saw a tanned, well muscled dude without his shirt, running during the lunch hour on Gattis School Road in Round Rock circa 2002 to 2006 - it was not me.

I was the pale guy with the SPF 70 sun block running  somewhat slower than the shirtless guy up and down those same hills.  The shirtless guy who seemed to get lots of attention from passing cars was Patrick.  At least I think that's what his name was. I only knew him through seeing him out running on Gattis School road.  He actually was the one who showed me the route - that was used by lots of us lunchtime runners.  You simply left the Dell campus on Greenlawn Blvd headed North, then turn East on Gattis School and go until you have to turn back due to time or boredom or energy.  A simple out and back.

I must have run that same course at least 200 times over a few years.  The whole road is rolling hills. And the best part was that the top of the biggest hill was almost exactly at the three mile mark - perfect for a six mile run.

That last hill is at least a half mile of steady uphill (see picture).  When you reach the top and turn around to go back, you can see practically the whole city (Round Rock is bigger than you think, but yes I get the irony).  I sometimes felt like Rocky going up that hill and just wanted to raise my arms in triumph at the top.  Then turn around and have a very fast run to the bottom.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Running in San Francisco

The thick strong fish odor in Fisherman's Wharf early in the morning, is cut a bit by the old men washing off the sidewalks with water hoses.  I go between the sidewalk and street as needed to avoid them.  The fishy smell is quickly replaced by fresh bread from the Boudin restaurant.  This smell is so good, it makes me want to stop my run and get some freshly baked bread.

At this point I'm over halfway done, I'm headed back.  I saw all of this just a little while ago on my way out, but then it was still dark and quiet.  Now it's early morning and office workers are starting to trickle into downtown.  The ferry's are in the bay bringing many of them from other points around the area can be seen and heard off to my left.

I reach the Pier 39 tourist trap and the Sea Lions.  Then the city scrolls by on the right with Telegraph Hill and then the TransAmerica Tower as highlights.

Suddenly I'm at Market Street and it's time to turn up and into the city.  Sometimes you have to stop at the lights and sometimes you can sprint and just make it.  I find myself trying to beat a trolley up the street.  He has to stop every few blocks and I stay in front for a while, before suddenly I'm back at my hotel.  The doorman actually offers me a bottle of water and asks how my run was.

"It was awesome.  Awesome. Thanks."

I have attended many conferences at San Francisco's Moscone Center and it turns out to be a perfect area to launch an incredible run every morning.  If you are staying within walking distance of the conference, then you will easily be able to do this same run.  You simply go to Market, run towards the water, turn left when you can't go forward anymore.  At this point you are heading towards Fisherman's Wharf and will see many other runners.  After Fisherman's Wharf you keep going and will find a very steep road that leads over into a park and then down into the Marina district.  If you turn around at the top of the hill it will have been about six miles by the time you get back to your hotel.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Victory Over Triple Stroller Guy

One of the greatest victories of my running career was the day that I beat Triple Stroller Guy in a race.  It only happened once - meaning that every other time we were in a race together he beat me.  In every other race he was able to make it around the course, while pushing three other humans in a huge stroller, faster than I could it do with nothing but a couple of goo packs.

In the Austin running scene, about 10 years ago, the Triple Stroller Guy was famous.  It was around this time that I was doing the Distance Challenge series of races that leads up the Austin marathon.  Triple Stroller Guy was doing the Distance Challenge as well so we were in all of those races together and many others races in Austin around that time.

He always starts at the back because of the stroller, not because he is slow.  In the longer runs I would gauge my success by how long it took him to pass me.

You don't have to look behind you to know that he is about to pass you.  You can hear everybody commenting about him.  "Look at that guy with the stroller!"  "How many kids are in there?"  "How do you make it up the hills!"  "That guy with the stroller is amazing." "GO TRIPLE STROLLER GUY!"

In a half marathon I once picked up pace when he was passing me and ran with him for a half mile or so.  It was like running with a celebrity.  Everybody along the way would cheer and encourage him.  I was able to run faster due to the encouragement, and they weren't even cheering for me.

I beat him in a 12 mile race called the Decker Challenge.  It is run on a lot of long rolling hills east of Austin near Decker Lake (hence the name).  Somewhere near the middle of this race Triple Stroller Guy passed me while we were going down hill.  On the next uphill I passed him back as he had to really work hard getting those three kids up the hill.  This went on the rest of the race. My good fortune was that this race had a finish line just after an uphill. Uphill finish = victory for me.

Shortly after I finished, he pushed the three kids across the line. To celebrate he pulls a beer out of the 12 pack he had stored in the stroller.  That's right.  He pushed 3 kids, a stroller, and a 12 pack of beer (probably with ice to keep it cold) and still almost beat me.

(I looked up the actual results after writing this and it turns out that he crossed the finish line just 12 seconds after me.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sometimes You End Up at the Pizza Buffet

My favorite running quote is from Patti Sue Plummer a US Olympic runner:

"Workouts are like brushing my teeth; 
I don't think about them, I just do them. 
The decision has already been made."

Motivation to run is a difficult thing to come up with day after day over years and years of running.  I think that everybody comes up with different ways to get out the door.

A long time ago, when I first started running, I just ran for basic fitness.  I would leave my apartment with the goal running across campus, around the football stadium, and back.  No long term goal.  I had never signed up for a 5k.  I had never competed in any type of race at all.  At some point I started using my watch to time these runs - but that was later.

As a result it didn't take much to convince me to do something else.

Around this time, I started dating a really cute red head.  I mentioned something about running and she talked me into going for a run together.  It turns out that she is a much better runner than me - but that's another story.  We went for a run together and then started running together once or twice a week.

We would start from her apartment and make a big loop around campus.  One day my motivation was really low:

"I don't think I really want to do this." I said as we took our first few steps.


"My legs are dead and I'm kinda hungry." Now we are halfway across the parking lot and moving slower.

She looks kind of relieved "I don't feel it today either.  What do you want to do?"

"Let's go get something to eat." I say as we reach the curb and stop to talk about it.

"....Ok....Where do you want to go?"

I take my car keys out and we move away from the street and towards my car.  "How about Mr. Gattis?"

"Todd!!!  You're horrible.... Let's go."

Our run changed into a trip to the pizza buffet.  For months after that we would often joke at the beginning of runs if we should instead go eat some pizza, but we never did it again.  It ended up being a source of motivation a reminder of what not to do.

"The decision has already been made, except when you decide to go to the pizza buffet." - Todd

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Morning Donut Run

I've never really been a morning runner.  I've tried lots of things to make it better.  But after a few days, I always end up just hitting the snooze button.  Once I made it three days doing early morning runs.  I hated that third day.  I can still remember the wooden feeling running the first few blocks down my street.  Waiting on my muscles to wake up, for my body to enter a rhythm, for my head to clear.  After three miles I was back home and telling anybody who would listen that I was not running in the morning again.

A couple of years later, my wife had picked up some donut holes on her way home from the gym for "the kids" to have with breakfast.  I ate about six of them.  They were still warm.

I decided to give morning running another chance, the donuts had made me so happy.  So I walked the kids to school and then started my run.

I could taste the donuts the whole way.  Maybe that sounds good to you and maybe it doesn't, but I can guarantee that it made for one of the best morning runs I've ever done.  In fact I highly recommend it, but not everyday.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Just Dreaming

I had a dream that I was running last night. Just a regular run. Somewhere outside of town in the short grass next to the road. Bright sun and slightly cloudy. A faster than normal pace, but not a sprint. My legs, feet, knees and ankles were pain free.

 Three years ago, I decided to commit to a year long running goal. To keep myself accountable, I announced my year long goal of 200 runs of at least 3 miles on twitter. I then posted my progress at least weekly. I finished run 200 in early December. The next year I decided to raise the bar to 225 and 3.5 miles per run. In July I was so far ahead of pace, that I changed the goal to 300. This meant running everyday except for 8 days the rest of the year. On new years eve, I finished run 300 on a treadmill while watching a bowl game.

I woke up wishing I could go back. I wanted to have a few more minutes running easily on the side of the road. Instead I slowly lower my feet to the floor and limp to my shoes. Old running shoes with arch supports and an ankle support bandage. Once I have these on I walk almost normally to the kitchen and start breakfast. After 15 minutes the pain is down and my left ankle and arch almost feel normal.

My ankle had started hurting after a run sometime in November during my quest for 300. I kept running. It didn't hurt very much and it didn't hurt everyday. The January after 300 (it was the beginning of 2011) I decided to try for 20 runs a month or 240 for the year. I had decided that 300 was too much and I needed to scale back. I kept up the pace needed to reach the goal. My ankle hurt more and more often. I was noticing that I limped all the time when August rolled around. I decided to go see a doctor.

The sports medicine specialist I saw sent me to PT.  The PT specialist saw that the arch on my left foot was flat.  For all I know it has always been flat.  He said that the worst thing a person like me could do was run.  I've been running for about 15 years with no significant injury (except for that back injury, but that's a different story).  He taught me some exercises to strengthen the muscles that help to support the arch.  Come back in a few weeks.

I scaled back running and told myself that I might not make my goal this year, but I was OK with that.  I did the exercises, bought at least five different arch supports for my shoes, and only ran 3 times a week.

I went to Europe for the first time (awesome time at VMworld Europe) and walked and stood basically all day.  I also ran in Denmark and Sweden - incredible stuff.

The pain had reached the point where my foot hurt all the time.  Even after I had been sitting for hours, it still hurt.

When I got back home in late October, I was very good.  No running and I did the PT exercises everyday for about three weeks.  The just got worse.  I thought something must be torn.  The doctor agreed that we should get an MRI to see what was going on.

The process to get an MRI and get results from the MRI stretched into mid December.  The results came back that I just had inflammation in some ligaments.  The doctor recommended that I do the same stretches and come back in a few weeks if things weren't better.

I find myself day dreaming about the last run I got to do.  I really miss getting outside and running.  I was depressed for after I stopped.  I became a bit more depressed after I realized that I wasn't going to be starting again anytime soon.

A few times I've had real dreams about running.  Sometimes I get to tell a story about something that happened once when I was running or somebody asks me a question about running.  I hope that I get to run again.

I decided to let my foot rest and not do anything for a while.  I sure wasn't going to do those exercises again that just made things worse.  At the end of January it was better.  In February I took my foot to a massage therapist / PT / knower of many things.  He taught me about stretches and trigger points and a bunch of other stuff.  It still hurts, but I think things are getting better.  Definitely. Maybe. I'll see how I feel tomorrow.

There are so many times that I wish I'd had a camera when I was out running.  People and places that I have seen.  Now that I can't run, I'm going to blog about running.  Makes perfect sense.

In this long pause from running, I've decided to do something that I have been wanting to do for several years.  I'm starting this running blog.